Tag Archives: review

Restaurant Review: Sweet Alchemy [Vermont]

Growing up in Vermont, most places I considered “vegan” were stereotypical hippie joints – local co-ops bathed in patchouli oil, incense, and Birkenstock footprints.  And, while many places in the Green Mountain State still resemble those icons, the vegan scene in Vermont is changing.

On a recent trip home, we pulled our car into a non-descript parking lot in Essex.  The property is shared with a nursery/greenhouse. A small sign over a beautiful deck read “Sweet Alchemy Bakery and Cafe.”

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From the outside on this chilly Winter day, so far the experience was quintessential Vermont – from the rolling frozen hills in the distance, to the barn-esque design of Sweet Alchemy.  Once inside, the warm, sweet smells of a talented baker completed the experience.

Their menu, while expansive, still seemed to lean toward a healthier side of vaganism, far from the deep fryers that dot the Pacific Northwest, dipping fake chicken and oreos into grease.

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The baked goods case had some great looking things, from maple-glazed pumpkin rolls to muffins, and scones.  It was a good sign of a healthy business that many items were sold out by the time we showed up for lunch.

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The hard part was choosing a menu item that would both warm me up, and give me some sustenance.  I had been traveling quite a bit, and frankly, wanted to pig out a little.

I ended up choosing the BFG (BF Goodrich!?) burger, and talked my mom into sharing her “Mac N Trees.”  It was a tough choice, given a menu with entries like “Super tuber tacos,” “Real Deal Enchiladas,” and “Savory herb waffles.”

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The burger was really good, and a solid choice for lunch.  Once it was presented, I realized this was certainly one of those healthy vegan places.  Not that it was a bad thing –  at all.  But it did make me realize that the super fatty places I have come to expect have changed veganism away from its earlier healthy days.  So, it must be true that as veganism expands across the mainstream, it somehow also becomes generally unhealthier.

The burger was full of housemade goodness, serving it on toasted bread slices was a little odd (pretzel bun, anyone?) and contributed to a little dryness.  The thick-cut fresh tomatoes helped out a lot in this area.

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My mom (a local Vermonter) has been going to Sweet Alchemy for quite a while.  One trip in particular, she sent me this synopsis:

“My friends had the Creamed Butternut Soup. They said it was delicious!! Chet said it was the best soup he’s ever had! They are not vegan but are willing to venture out and tempt their palate. I had a delicious Banana Walnut Muffin with an Iced Americano. Everything is vegan. Amazing flavors!!!”

Back to this trip, I plunged my fork into a bowl of hearty Mac and Trees…and it was amazing!  The crumbled nuts sprinkled on top balanced it so well.  The healthy yet hearty “cheese” was phenomenal, and of course the broccoli (trees) rounded it all out.

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The facility was super nice, with a huge outdoor seating area, that huge deck, and big, bright windows surrounded by old books.  There was a nice coffee bar off to the side.  I could envision myself watching a Vermont blizzard blow, reading a book and enjoying some of that coffee.

I will be going back to Sweet Alchemy every time I go back home.  You should check it out too!

Sweet Alchemy is located at Lang Farm on Rt.15 in Essex, VT.

Restaurant Review: Hip City Veg [Philadelphia]

Spending a week in Philly has been an awesome chance to get out and check the vegan scene.  So far it has been an awesome experience.

Shortly after landing at PHL, I hit the road and had dinner at Hip City Veg on South 40th.

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The spot was super nice, and had seats in the huge front window for epic people watching.  I arrived later in the day, even after dinner, so the place was pretty empty.

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The next challenge was to choose something from the menu.  It isn’t a super expansive menu, but there was a decent variety of things.  After hearing rave reviews of the Disco Chickin Sandwich, I ordered one up.  I added a side of sweet potato fries, and the mysterious black bean dip.

Continue reading Restaurant Review: Hip City Veg [Philadelphia]

Restaurant Review: Fatsquatch [Portland]

It’s always exciting when you hear about a new vegan place in Portland.  Especially with what seems like so many deciding to close their doors.

So yesterday, on a whim I ended up pointing the truck toward SE Belmont, and dropping in on Fatsquatch PDX.

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The cart is nestled in a small pod on Belmont (Belmont Street Eats), and if you didn’t know it was there, you could possibly walk right past it.  But once in the narrow little alleyway it opens up, with Fatsquatch lurking in the back like its namesake.  Don’t expect covered eating at this pod, however. I had to eat in the truck.

Continue reading Restaurant Review: Fatsquatch [Portland]

Product Review: Black Rifle Coffee Company

Living in the woods of Oregon, you must be proficient with a few critical things.  Make a damn good coffee, and be able to hit your target with judicious marksmanship.

So when those two things unite, it makes for an awesome product.

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A cuppa BRCC Joe while cleaning the rifles after a long day on the range.

Enter Black Rifle Coffee Company.  This small batch, veteran-owned roaster hails from Utah.  They have an awesome brand which represents the antithesis of what they call “hipster coffee.”  Which, in my opinion was becoming overly pretentious.  I want my coffee good, I want it consistent, and I want my roaster armed (not kidding, the photo below is from their website.  I love it).

Continue reading Product Review: Black Rifle Coffee Company

Product Review: Rugged Ridge Heat Reduction Hood

One of the biggest concerns I have had with the JK platform was under hood heat.  The engine bays (in both the 3.8 and 3.6 variants) are super cramped, and we push our Jeeps when offroading, especially in hot and dusty places like Moab or the Rubicon.

I was really excited when Rugged Ridge sent me one of their performance vented hoods to try.  This would be the perfect chance to see just what kind of a difference would be seen with a vented hood.

We push our Jeeps in some pretty hot and arid places such as Moab.

Before the Rugged Ridge hood, I considered a bunch of options. Starting with the cheaper end, I looked at hood louvers from companies like Gen Right and Poison Spider.  The biggest benefit to these, is that you do not need to paint your hood.

Continue reading Product Review: Rugged Ridge Heat Reduction Hood

Restaurant Review: Sweetpea Baking Co. [Portland]

Believe it or not, we have so many vegan establishments in Portland that it is still a possibility to explore new ones.  And this is exactly what happened to me recently when visiting Sweetpea Baking Company in SE Portland.

I had been there before, but usually only to pick up a special order cake, or for a coffee emergency.

But today I visited with the intention of actually exploring the place – starting with one of their ginormous cinnamon buns.  And what a place to start! Continue reading Restaurant Review: Sweetpea Baking Co. [Portland]

Bar Review: Bye & Bye [Portland]

Personally, I have a top 5 list of places in Portland that I simply could not live without.

The Bye & Bye is in that group’s top 3.

The drinks tend to be on the fruitier side than their sister bar (The Sweet Hereafter).  Their Mojito is decent, the Stockholm is a popular choice for Melanie.  I prefer the Three Liars, with mint and cucumber infused gin.  Especially on a hot Portland day.

The bar is beautiful and bright.

Their beer list is ever changing and okay.  They could stand to get a few more taps and expand the variety a little more.  That being said, they do a good job with the taps they have.  Their IPAs are usually top shelf.

The ambiance is nice and chill.  You never know who you may see while at the Bye and Bye – I have seen small families, older folks, the typical hipster, and all people in between.

Food wise?  Phenom like penh.

The Eastern Bowl and their new sammy loaded with buffalo soy curls and amazing candied almonds are both amazing and make me want to get all Touretty.  Notice how I forgot the name of the damn sandwich?  That’s because it was named after something abstract and cool.  It doesn’t matter, just get it and love it. (EDIT: The sammy is called “Frank’s Wild Years” and I assume there is some backstory there).  It is the yin to the Sweet Hereafter’s Buffalo Soldier’s Yang, and I would say it is a tie for the best sammich.

Another thing to grab is their new(ish) pretzels.  It’s good these come 2 on a plate, as I think I could eat an entire platter of these damn things.  Skip the mustard and plunge that puppy right into their homemade cheesy dip.  They come out warm, and with just the right amount of salt on them to make them addictive.

The biggest (albeit the only) complaint I have with them is that they are too damn cool to answer the phone.  I’d love to place a quick to go order and grab an Eastern to go.  But they never answer.  Ah well, such is the price for awesomeness, I suppose.

You would be perfect to me if you just picked this up.  It's even vintage!
You would be perfect to me if you just picked this up. It’s even vintage!

The pros far outweigh the cons (I only counted one con) for the B&B though.  Great ambiance, awesome service, beautiful atmosphere.  Combine that with great vegan bar food, and good drinks and we have a Portland establishment.

Every night I pray to the vegan Gods that the B&B is here forever.